Since I was the only person I know with the balls to go to a 9:00 PM concert, I guess that means that I should let everyone know how it went. First of all, The Basement is just what it sounds like: A basement in a pretty big, old house. Not the best venue, but it was at least small enough that there were really no bad viewing spots. The crowd was primarily singer/songwriter types, or their friends, which meant I was painfully out of my element. Not to worry! I shook the hand of one girl whose name I forget and she told me “We are friends now.” I guess in her world friends only speak to each other when they need to ask for extra chairs. She didn’t speak to me again after I told her I wasn’t saving those chairs for anyone. I cried a little for the loss of my new friend. Anyway….the show got started with some acoustic singer/songwriter named Mike Willis. He was decent. Not really my style but he had some talent and his supporting band – bass and drums – were good and he did a couple of fun songs. He played 5 songs in total, with three being very slow numbers that almost put me to sleep in my little corner of the room. Before his last song he said that The Elms were next and that they were going to rock our faces off.
The Elms got up after he finished and spent about 10 minutes getting their gear set up. I could tell that Thom (guitarist) was not exactly thrilled with the sound system there. It’s not like he was visibly annoyed, he just looked like he couldn’t find what he needed. He finished up and took a quick conference with Owen (vocals, guitar) and Nathan (bass, vocals) and something was decided. I’ll get to that in a minute. They opened with This Is How the World Will End and the crowd, which had been very sparse for the first guy, had really filled in and become real quiet. They used a long opening for the song that is not on the album version and it was really cool. I think they used it as a chance to make sure the sound was ok, but it also set the mood for their set. They knocked the song out of the park, and the background vocals were the best I’ve ever heard from them. Nathan was really singing his heart out for the harmony parts. Once they finished that song someone in the back yelled out “You guys f****** rock!” Owen laughed and said, “This is The Elms unplugged…at least almost.” I could tell the sound was really geared down for the show, and that comment confirmed it. They were not able to bring their full sound to this venue, but it really didn’t hurt the show. It just gave them a chance to improvise a bit and do a few different things.
They continued the set with Nothing To Do With Love, which flat out rocked. At the close of the song, Owen started playing the main guitar part again, but slower. No one else in the band was playing, they just were looking at him with slightly amused looks on their faces. Owen kept playing and turned to the drummer – Chris – told him something, and then Chris and Nathan joined in with the slower tempo. Thom picked right up and they jammed for another 2 or 3 minutes liked that. It came across as very unplanned, just a band having fun, but it sounded awesome. I’m betting they do it in future shows. They then jumped into a new one Back To Indiana. If you have seen them live, you have probably heard this one. It’s a cool up-tempo song which sounded great in the slightly stripped down version. County Fair, a new song, was next. I have heard bits and pieces of this song online, but never the whole thing. It’s a cool little number and it’s also a nice chance of pace. It’s relatively happy, but the lyrics do have some bittersweet moments. The song itself is peppy and reminds me of Tom Petty. They closed with The Way I Will off The Chess Hotel. They did another improvised “reprise” after this one as well which brought the house down. Chris was insane on the drums!
Overall, I was very pleased with the show. I would have loved to hear this exact set in a better sounding venue – at least with the full sound the band usually brings, but I won’t complain. It was a little different and made the experience cool. The people at the show were really into the set and kept yelling for more songs. I talked to quite a few people that were sitting near me before the shows started and asked who they were there to hear. None of them had ever heard of The Elms before that night. By the end of the show, those same people were looking at each other with wide eyes saying things like, “Man that was awesome! Those guys rocked!” Stuff like that. Needless to say, everyone was impressed. That’s what the band does. They come and they rock. No frills. No gimmicks. Just rock and roll. They bring it every time.